Work/Life Balance: “A Journey, Not a Destination”

The views represented in this post are the author’s only, and do not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the Faculty Women’s Interest Group or the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.

In anticipation of our FWIG Roundtable on “Work-Life Balance: Ways to Succeed” at ACSP (to be held on Saturday, November 1, 11-12:15), I thought it helpful to dig up some resources that might be useful and start a discussion here.

I found this article on “What is Work/Life Balance, Anyway” by professional certified coach Julie Cohen a nice starting place. While every point she makes here is probably worth a separate blog post, I would like to highlight several that have been meaningful to me recently. The first is her comment that achieving balance is a “journey, not a destination”. Frustrating for this strong “J” on the Myers-Briggs scale (which means I like my “life to be planned, stable, and organized”, according to this link), this means you never really “arrive” (at least for more than a few days, weeks, or maybe months). But with that comes the freedom of knowing that things can and will change.

Her illustration of two clients also highlights how journeys may look the same on the outside, but feel very different on the inside, and yield diverse destinations – some more fulfilling than others. In academia, and for women, I think this is particularly important to note. We tend to see the journey as narrowly defined for us by institutional rules of tenure and promotion. It involves certain requirements for research, teaching, and service that seem to take even the best of us well over 40 hours a week to keep up with. The key to navigating the journey (and not viewing tenure as some solid “destination”) is how that journey aligns with our individual “core values” which extend beyond career ambitions to include those several other things in our lives most important to us. Prioritizing those values (e.g. “being influential in my field is more important than XX”; or “caring for my aging parent is more important than Y”), and re-identifying and re-prioritizing them often, then gives us more control over the journey by helping us make decisions based around trade-offs.

I think we often see our journeys as handed to us rather than defined by us and our own core values, and are shooting for a destination that we don’t actually know that much about or that doesn’t represent everything we value. One key to better balance is seeing the journey as more flexible, infusing it with our core values (rather than be guided by someone else’s), and re-imagining our destination beyond our careers.

What do you think?


Posted by Corianne Scally.

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